I am in the middle of a mundane task; one that has been unobtrusively awaiting my attention for the past four years; I am cleaning the desktop of my laptop! As I drag and drop and sort and organise files into the simplest of methods (a folder created for each year), I am amazed at all the writing I have done over the years; most of which has not seen light of day or blog.
As I look back, I’m quite surprised that writing which, at the time, I thought was dull, repetitive, uninteresting and has-been, now seems to me to be sharp, interesting, emotive, and full of potential.
What has changed?
Six years ago, I started studying at university as a mature age student and mother of two children; one primary aged and one pre-school. My major was writing and boy did I learn. I learned to compare, critique and admire writers past and present and I didn’t escape my own critical eye. Like a wine connoisseur, one who we might be tempted to believe is turning his nose at what he considers to be an inferior vintage, I became accustomed to analysing high literature, being immersed in vivid creative non-fiction and work-shopping the writings of my fellow students (not escaping their own critique, myself!)
As an experienced and down-to-earth wine expert might tell you; they didn’t intend to become a critic of the humble grape; it was exposure to the truest vintage that enabled the complexity and distinction of their tongue…and once you have seen the possibility of the wine or the pen (!) it is difficult to turn back to a simpler time when a grape was a grape and a quick fiction was an adventure.
I would write and rewrite, compare and contrast and continually come up empty in my own writing. I wanted the pithy societal observations of Kafka, the slender dialogue of Hemingway and the grass roots characters of Harper Lee. Add a good dollop of Flannery O’Connor’s faith, Alice Munro’s homegrown storytelling and the imagination of idea-factory Stephen King.
Any wonder my writing did make the cut? Or even the blog….
Selah. Be still. Sit and think about that…Has there been a time where you have fallen short of your own hopes?
As I pop my many word documents into their chronological folders, I occasionally open them. I see an idea, half finished. A great observation, lost in a fluff of words or an intriguing character wandering around with nothing to do.
And that’s when I stopped writing.
We writers have the ability to be incredibly self-focused at best, indulgent and narcissistic at worst. We write ourselves into corners and grow cynical as we pen our darker observations.
Sometimes it takes a good jerk upward from the keyboard to remember why we are writing.
For some of us, it is the desire to capture what we see. To draw the meaning out of the mundane; to see the beauty in unlikely places. We want to catch it like a snowflake and preserve it for all to see.
A few years ago when my writing ‘career’ began to derail, an honest friend reminded me that my story was not my own. It belonged to God.
Perhaps the ‘me’ of six years ago was a little bit more focused on getting her name in gold foil.
In the time that has passed - and let’s be honest, it’s not that long – I had unconsciously accepted that my writing career just wasn’t meant to be. I’d missed a window. I wasn’t good enough. I wouldn’t be able to pull it together. And besides….kids.
How to balance what they need with the dreams in my own heart.
I figured I couldn’t do both. To love God or to love money. To be a mum or to have a dream. They seemed about as a good a combination as wine and a cask.
I’m participating in a social media pop-up group for Christian Creatives in Quarantine. This interesting time, that is seeing us all indoors, is having an effect on my soul. As the external expectations pair back and the pace of life pauses I am asking myself ‘what is it that I was made for?’
The answer doesn’t come blazing in a comet or booming in the audible voice of a distant Deity.
It comes in the clarity of time as I read my own words, now separate from the aloof goals that were never really what it was all about.
I’m not a Kafka, a King, an O’Connor. Was never meant to be.
I think of the woman who poured out the perfume at Jesus’ feet; how often I think of her. She brought something of value; something of herself and she gave it to Him.
I keep thinking of that course that I never finished; the one I was called out of. How I wanted that degree. And yet, how I learned.
We put so many boxes around things that were never meant to be contained. Built expectations that were never made by Him.
I breathe in and out, as I often do, remembering that there is much freedom to be found in this space, a paring back that can set the spirit free.
Blessings to you at this unusual time, friends; may you remember who you are and who He is. May the layers of expectation, the weight of failure and the loss of hopes usher in the One who was always there, waiting.
'Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.'